May 11, 2020 - Health

Record-low science funding could slow research for coronavirus cure

Medical workers processing on-site coronavirus tests.
Medical workers processing on-site coronavirus tests in April. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic "comes at a time when the U.S. federal government’s investments in science are at the lowest levels in many years," Abby Joseph Cohen and Michael Hao Wu of Goldman Sachs Research write in a recent note to clients.

Where it stands: "The federal government now plays a much smaller role in advancing science than it did in the past. The consequence of this trend is particularly damaging for basic research, which depends on the government as its main source of funding."

  • "Since coming to office, the Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to limit funding for science, both for domestic research agencies and international public health programs."

By the numbers: In fiscal year 2019, federal R&D spending was 0.6% of U.S. GDP and 2.8% of total federal outlays, the lowest in more than 60 years, Cohen and Wu note.

  • In fiscal year 2019, federal R&D spending was down 14% from its 2011 levels.
  • "When adjusted for inflation, the first three years of the Trump administration had the lowest levels of federal R&D spending since FY 2002."
  • "The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding from federal research and public health agencies. Its FY 2021 budget released on February 10 proposed funding cuts of 18.6% for the CDC, 7.5% for NIAID, and 7.2% for NIH."

Go deeper: The race to make vaccines faster

Go deeper